With Spring right around the corner and the Cherry Blossom Festival on the way, everyone’s ready to dress their best for Sakura Sunday. In Japan, beautiful yukata, 浴衣, are perfect for a stroll through fairs. For people in Philadelphia who want to wear yukata too, how do they tell a yukata from a kimono, 着物? Both are often sold outside of tourist spots in Japan under the name kimono but there are some real differences.
Yukata are made of thinner, lighter material and could be considered as a casual kimono. There is generally just one layer involved and they’re mostly worn in the summer and spring months. This is the perfect outfit for enjoying the Cherry Blossom Festival. They are quite popular to wear to festivals, firework displays and other summer activities. Yukata are also a common sight after bathing at traditional Japanese hotels that have communal baths. Yukata means ‘bathing clothes’. Naturally yukata are worn at an onsen before and after enjoying the hot springs.
Kimono, while literally meaning ‘thing you wear’, are now considered a traditional garment worn for events like a kabuki play (usually this is reserved to older people) or getting married. Solemn, very formal and special occasions are when kimono come out of the closet to play. They’re usually made from expensive and high-end fabrics. Wearing a kimono for women involves layers of carefully ordered cloth. The exterior layer is T shaped with extremely long sleeves. The layers are wrapped around the wearer and secured in place by a very long strip of fabric called an obi, 帯. The obi acts as a belt and is tied at the back into an ornate display. The goal is to have as cylindrical a shape as possible. Nowadays extra ties and sashes beneath the obi are employed to keep the kimono closed and the obi in place. As an interesting side note, sumo wrestlers are in kimono and yukata often because they are required to wear traditional Japanese clothing when in public.
There are many ways to acquire a kimono or yukata as there are online sellers. Please research carefully if you chose that route to find the best price and quality. If you’re in Japan, browse with a newly discerning eye! If you already have a yukata or kimono, come show them off at Japan Night at the Museum, the Kabuki Dance performance, the Blossom Bash and, of course, Sakura Sunday! If you’d like to try a kimono on and learn how it is worn, please check out the kimono lessons at Shofuso!